clock, timepiece

On display


  • Handbook text

    In France, towards the end of the 17th century, a new style of watch appeared which today is called the ‘oignon’ because of its shape and size. These watches were much thicker than their English and Dutch counterparts and they were also different in having a dial on which were separate enamel plaques for each of the hours and a separate enamel ring for the quarter-hours.

    The case of this watch is made from brass covered with black leather and with gilt-brass rims and gold piqué-point decoration on the bezel band and back. The alarm is set by turning the hand in the middle of the dial, and the time is shown by a pointer on the disc as it rotates once in twelve hours. When the alarm sounds, a hammer strikes a bell in the back of the case, but here there is no piercing to allow the sound of the bell to escape. Instead, the inner raised gilt-brass rim inside the case is pierced and engraved with foliate scrolls and grotesques.

    The watch is wound by using a key on the square in the middle of the dial. Turning the square winds the going and the alarm at the same time. The finely-made movement has a fusee and is controlled by a large balance wheel beneath a silver bridge pierced and engraved with foliate scrolls and a grotesque mask. The watch also has a balance spring, and the rate of the watch is adjusted by turning a square on a geared regulator with a silver index disc engraved 1-7, which alters the effective length of the balance spring to make the watch run more quickly or more slowly.

    Eric Bullivant Bequest, 1974 (WA1974.225)

    In: Thompson, David, Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2007)

Further reading

Thompson, David, Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, Ashmolean Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2007), no. 17

Reference URL

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